Adult-use cannabis sales in New York surpass $16.5 million

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Regulated adult-use marijuana sales in New York state have surpassed $16.5 million since the first dispensary opened in December, state regulators said last week.

Despite early estimates projecting sales in excess of $1 billion in 2023, lawsuits and bureaucratic delays have consigned New York’s adult-use market to a slow start.

Many licensed equity operators have struggled to secure funding and real estate to launch their businesses, and the multistate operators who hold most of New York’s limited medical marijuana licenses are still shut out of the adult-use market.

To date, only 10 adult-use marijuana retail stores have opened statewide, according to a May 11 state Cannabis Control Board presentation.

Six of these stores are in New York City, where as many as 1,400 illicit cannabis retailers may be in business, according to city officials.

But despite the limited retail capacity and rampant competition from the illicit market, legal retailers have recorded $16.5 million in sales since the first store opened just after Christmas, said Chris Alexander, executive director of the state Office of Cannabis Management.

State regulators expect revenue to grow steadily in 2023.

A total of 215 conditional adult-use retail dispensary licenses – the permits reserved for nonprofits or individuals impacted by the war on drugs – have been issued to date, the agency said.

A lawsuit filed by an out-of-state applicant who alleged that state regulations illegally gave preference to New York residents delayed license issuance in much of the state.

And a growing chorus of critics, including social equity applicants, point out that a much-touted $200 million state investment fund, meant to provide equity applicants with start-up capital, has yet to distribute any cash.